SXSW Meetup Bans Cell Phones, Talking about Work

March 7, 2013

1:05 pm

When you walk into the I Am My Own Social Network meetup at SXSW next Monday, you’ll surrender your cell phone. When you start chatting, you won’t be allowed to talk about work. Oh, and no business cards can be traded either.

Instead, hopefully, participants will talk about their true selves. The meetup will include five “interactive stations” with ideas for non-work conversation topics. After 45 minutes, participants will discuss the experience.

The hashtag of the meetup is #techless. As the description explains:

“We’re tired of the inexhaustible need to tweet from every event we attend and Instagram so there is irrefutable proof that we were there rather than listening to the person we came to see. We all could use a break from having to be ‘on’ and feeling the need to influence our influencers.”

The meetup is hosted by CreativeFeed, a marketing strategy agency. Below, creative director Dave Hepp explains the inspiration for this SXSW anomaly.

Tech Cocktail: Why is this needed? 

Dave Hepp: “I Am My Own Social Network” is needed as a friendly reminder of our humanity in response to our culture’s increasing use of technology. NOTE: The idea of the meetup isn’t to blame our cultural behaviors upon technology or even rebel against it. We’re actually quite fond of smartphones, apps, and all the other fun online tools available that help connect us to our friends, families, and interests more easily. We are in fact all tech-savvy users ourselves, however we never want to lose sight of the fact that our best communications sometime happen face to face, over a conversation. We think it’s needed because there will always be value in being able to create a social network that doesn’t require a connection to an actual 4G or wifi network.

Tech Cocktail: What does “I am my own social network” mean? 

Hepp: “I Am My Own Social Network” is both a point of view and a motto. It simply translates to “I define my social networks not through online sites or feeds, but a tangible connection that exists offline” and will continue to value whether technology is involved or not.

Tech Cocktail: Why aren’t participants allowed to talk about work? 

Hepp: We ask participants to refrain from talking about their job or position because oftentimes the most popular questions asked at networking events are “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” While we love what we do, we encourage people to put their personality on display first instead of falling back onto the popular standby discussion topics.

Tech Cocktail: What do you think people will talk about? What will happen? 

Hepp: We think something pretty magical is going to happen, that participants will find it refreshing, a moment or two with a new vantage point amidst the digital world that is SXSW Interactive. Sure, we know that there will be a few initial moments of trepidation and potentially fear in letting go of a smartphone for an hour. But after attendees take a deep breath and start to think about themselves outside of work and their technology, they’ll find deeper, more stimulating, and more memorable conversations that lead to more unexpected outcomes.

Tech Cocktail: Do you go #techless at other times? 

Hepp: We do. We, the three presenters, all understand the value of being disconnected at times. Living in NYC, we often struggle to not pull out a smartphone while waiting a couple of minutes in line to grab lunch or on a subway platform. We understand that because of FOMO or deadlines or a need to stay busy, that sometimes our technology just becomes an involuntary reaction, but we think that by saying “I Am My Own Social Network,” we create moments to stop and see the greater world around us that’s not on a screen.

“I Am My Own Social Network” will take place on Monday, March 11, from 3:30-4:30 pm, at the Empire (606 E. 7th Street). If this interests you, also check out Cathy Brooks’s talk, “Shut Up & Breathe: Meditation & Storytelling FTW!” 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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